Mitch McConnell Flunks US History

Online_Privacy_and_the_Founding_FathersThe Founding Fathers wanted the Supreme Court to represent the “will of the people.”  
___ True   ___ False

I have to keep Mitch after class to review how the Founding Fathers designed the Supreme Court

Any high school student who’s been paying attention would know that the correct answer is “false.” I’m guessing that Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans would incorrectly answer “True.” Remember – the central argument being raised by Republican Senators who refuse to even consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court is “Let the people have a voice.” So I’m going to keep Mitch (and his Senate buddies) after class to review how the Founding Fathers designed the federal judiciary selection process. The late Justice Antonin Scalia justified many of his decisions by claiming to know the Founding Fathers’ “intent” – so let’s use the original constitution for this model. 

  1. Only a fraction of the American people (white, property-owning, males) are allowed to vote.
  2. Each state selects elite “electors” who have the final say in an elaborate procedure that serves as an indirect selection of the President.
  3. Each state legislature selects two Senators to represent the interests of the state. (Since they don’t represent the American people, every state gets the same number of Senators).  Only 1/3 of Senate is up for reelection every two years. Senators serve a term of 6 years (vs 2 years for the popularly elected House of Representatives). The Founders gave the Senate the power to approve Presidential treaties and appointments because it was the legislative house most insulated from the whims of the electorate.
  4. The President nominates a Supreme Court justices. (Same for all other federal judges). A majority of the Senate must approve the President’s nomination to the court.
  5. Presidents and members of Congress have fixed terms, federal judges serve for life. Judges’ salaries cannot be diminished during their time of service.
  6. The judge’s life tenure is “during good behavior.” Any high crimes and misdemeanors can be challenged by the popularly elected House of Representative through an impeachment (finally, there’s some “will of the people”). But the actual trial of the judge is handled by the Senate.

If the Founding Fathers believed the “people must have a voice” the constitution would have provided for popular election of federal judges. “Let the people decide” is an ironic justification when discussing the process for selecting a replacement for Scalia – the self-appointed champion of the Founding Fathers’ intent.

Image credit: “Online Privacy and the Founding Fathers” By Matt Shirk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

First Presidential Debate – Obama, Romney, Lehrer Word Clouds

I enjoyed watching the first 2012 Presidential debates. Here’s three word clouds – from President Obama, Governor Romney and debate moderator, Jim Lehrer.

Each word cloud represents the 30 most frequently used words, with the frequency represented by font size. For all three, I removed names and titles from consideration (examples: President Obama, Governor Romney, Jim, Mr. etc). When the term “president” was use to refer to the office, it remained in the count.  Interesting that “47” never turned up.

President Obama

Governor Romney

Jim Lehrer

Transcript source: Washington Post
Word Cloud generation: Wordle.net

How to Search and Share 350,000 TV News Broadcasts

Internet Archive just launched TV News Search & Borrow a searchable collection now contains 350,000 news programs collected over 3 years from national U.S. networks and stations in San Francisco and Washington D.C. User’s can specify search term, network and TV show. In the screenshot (above) I searched the term “47” on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report.”

Internet Archives states “”This service is designed to help engaged citizens better understand the issues and candidates in the 2012 U.S. elections by allowing them to search closed captioning transcripts to borrow relevant television news programs.  The archive is updated with new broadcasts 24 hours after they are aired. Older materials are also being added.”  Currently 21 networks are searchable (left). 

I searched for “Obama” on FOX 10 PM News (below), and found coverage of his convention speech. I could dig deeper into the broadcast to generate minute-by-minute clickable word clouds. (Click on a word and it lights up in each section of the broadcast summary). The user can create a URL to share the clip, but embedding is not available.

Romney vs. Obama Wordle Smackdown

Here’s a Wordle comparison of the top twenty words used in the each candidate’s speech to their conventions. Font size represents frequency that the word appeared in their speech as prepared for delivery. Seems to be “America” vs “new.”

Sources: 
Romney’s Speech to the Republican Convention NY Times
President Obama’s Prepared Remarks From the Democratic National Convention NY Times

Wordle: Obama’s State of the Union 2012

This Wordle Word Cloud features the 100 most frequently used words from the full text of U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address (reported in Wall Street Journal).
Full text

Look carefully and you’ll see “education.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you want to analyze word use in all the State of the Union addresses, there’s a great tool at State of the Union. Image below is from JFK’s 1961 SOTU. (This a static screen shot go to site for a functional word map.) More instructions below.

Here’s some of the features of this site:

To move between State of the Union addresses, click or drag on the graph below the word cloud; the president who delivered each address and the date of delivery will appear at the bottom of the screen and in the center. The current date will appear in white and the previous one in red.
You can also use the right and left arrow keys to move one year at a time.

The words from the previous address viewed will appear in red when your mouse is over the cloud window so you can compare them. Mouse out to make them fade into the background.

Click on a word to view the full State of the Union address in the window to the right; the selected word will be highlighted.

Click below the graph or on a blank area of the word cloud to view the Wikipedia U.S. History Timeline describing events that happened in and around the year of the address.

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